Redhawks end Kent State volleyball’s season in MAC quarterfinal


Kent State freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger spikes the ball toward a Bowling Green State University player during their final game of the regular season in the M.A.C. Center on Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014. The Flashes lost to Miami University this weekend, eliminating them from the Mid-American Conference tournament.

Jimmy Miller

Box Score

As coach Don Gromala pointed out after Miami University defeated Kent State in straight sets, only one team ends their season happy.

“Obviously it’s tough to go down and not play your best,” Gromala said. “But we’ve got to look at the picture and what they’ve done for the program. Teams don’t come in and take us lightly. It’s a bittersweet end.”

Fresh off its first Mid-American Conference tournament win in Gromala’s tenure, Kent State (17-14, 8-8 MAC) fell to the Redhawks after a subpar offensive and defensive performance.

“I don’t know if it was what they were doing what they doing with their defense, but we couldn’t put the ball away,” Gromala said. “All of (Miami’s) players played well. We didn’t have our blocks up, so it’s hard for our defense to dig balls behind. We should have made more adjustments as a staff a little bit quicker.”

Missed opportunities was the theme throughout the night. In a 16-16 tiebreak in the first set, senior middle blocker Liz Reikow’s attack error gave Miami just the jumpstart it needed to ignite. The Redhawks took the set, 25-18.

The Flashes then coughed up a second set lead—a brief 9-8 advantage—and could never regain an edge in a 25-17 set.

Finally, Kent State took one last lead in the evening in the third set. Up 17-16 in the decisive set, the Redhawks hit their stride and rattled off a 9-1 run to close out the quarterfinal.

Despite being down nearly the entire duration of the match, Gromala said his squad never lost poise or confidence.

“I think we had been in that position before and we had come back,” Gromala said. “We just got stuck in a bad rotation and could never get out of it.”

Reikow led the offense with 12 kills while hitting .400 in the match. No other Kent State player registered double-digit kills, while three of Miami’s hitters managed the feat.

The defense followed up a dominant defensive effort against Eastern Michigan with a deflating match, as freshman outside hitter Kelsey Bittinger finished with 15 digs. Freshman libero Challen Geraghty had nine digs in the effort, her lowest total since September, one evening after notching 39.

With the loss comes the end of five seniors’ careers: Reikow, outside hitter Tinuke Aderemi-Ibitola, defensive specialist Kaylee Koller, outside hitter Lauren Engleman and setter Jenny Buczek.

“We’re sad to see the seniors go, but we’re really proud and happy for what they’ve helped the program do and shift the focus of what we’re trying to accomplish,” Gromala said.

Looking ahead, Gromala said the ultimate goal is to make it out of the conference tournament as champions. By advancing past their first match in the tournament, the Flashes continue to progress toward that goal.

“We’re changing the perception of what Kent State volleyball is all about,” Gromala said. “I think if we’re not winning the tournament, then it’s not really acceptable. We’re not achieving our goal and so we’ve got to work harder.”

Contact Jimmy Miller at [email protected].